Ask Amma

Sunscreen … really?

In Yes / No on 8 June 2013 at 3:35 am
I am in a dilemma about whether I should start applying sunscreen to my daughter.  On a sunny day, she has red cheeks which go back to normal in a few hours.  Apart from a little tanning, our skin tone is not threatened by any sun burn, and in our childhood and even adult life, we never used sunscreen.  A friend mentioned that we must apply before swimming or on the beach because  water and sun combination makes sun extra dangerous.
But I am reluctant to apply sunscreen because the titanium or zinc dioxide present forms a thick impenetrable layer closing the spore, preventing sweating and thereby toxic elimination through skin which is normal body mechanism. That itself makes me wonder if it causing more harm than helping people. 
– Mama of a 1.5 year old in Connecticut
To sun or not to sun?  That is the question.
Whether it is nobler in the sun to bask
Risking UV rays, sunburn, and worse
Or to arm ourselves with Vitamin D
And cleanse ourselves through sweat
And by boosting our immunity, brave them?

In other words, how to avoid the risks of 
  • too much sun – risk of sunburn and skin cancer from ultraviolet (UV) rays
  • too little sun – depriving ourselves of Vitamin D that strengthens our immune system
  • too little sweat – not allowing our body to detoxify and cool itself
  • ingredients in the sunscreen 
  • wrong kind of sunscreen 
If you are planning to be out on a sunny day for a length of time that is likely to give you a sunburn and thus increase your risk of skin cancer, then with all due praise to the glorious sun, it seems sensible to limit UV exposure.  You can check the UV level for your location and time of day.  Apart from lotion, clothing, umbrellas and trees help to screen the sun.  What if you are out working in the fields?  These folks put on their hats and scarves.  
ragi harvesting
To answer your question about going to the beach or pool, being out in the sun and water – UV Awareness confirms the obvious: clear water lets sun shine through, whereas murky water that you might find in a lake, will block some of the rays.  And water itself can reflect rays back on to us, if we are just sitting near the water but not in the water ourselves.  As to how “dangerous” this is, it depends on time of day, how long you are out, and how easily you burn.
I am the wrong person to recommend sunscreen but Mothering Magazine’s Guide has several sunscreens, and from the Mothering Community Forum I learned that some people use coconut oil or any number of other vegetable or nut oils – their respective sun protection factor (spf) values are given here.  The Environmental Working Group has issued some guidelines on sunscreen including what not to do.
Before you avoid or screen the sun altogether, remember that you need your Vitamin D as well, and what better place to get it than from the sun?
p.s. Good point you raised about sweating.  Sweat is natural and helps release toxins.  I don’t know if sunscreen inhibits sweat, but plenty of modern lotions and potions do, sometimes on purpose. Not to mention cars, elevators and air conditioners.

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